TunnelBear Review: still free in 2021

7.2/10
No Netflix & P2P – no fun
Last updated: September 24, 2021
Minimum Price:
$3.33 / month
Apps available:
windows macos android ios chrome firefox opera
Top VPN options:
1. NordVPN
9.6 / 10
Excellent security
Very fast speeds
2. Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Excellent performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

Any TunnelBear review should start by mentioning that it’s one of the best free VPNs in 2021. Afterward, you can start asking questions:

  • Is TunnelBear VPN safe?
  • How fast is it?
  • Does it unblock Netflix?
  • Can TunnelBear protect your P2P activities?

The answers often depend on the version we’re talking about. Obviously, the premium TunnelBear plan offers more. But is that enough for you to buy it? Continue reading to find out.

Founded in 2011, TunnelBear Inc. was acquired by the cybersecurity giant McAfee in 2018, which means that the Canada-based VPN provider now also falls under the privacy-challenged US jurisdiction. Other than that, there have been few changes in the way TunnelBear looks and works.

One thing is sure, though: this VPN has become much faster than before. However, it still limits what you can do with this service. The shortlist of apps and supported devices only adds to TunnelBear’s niche role in the VPN industry.

Overview

Rank #37 out of 223 providers
Website tunnelbear.com
Countries 34
Servers 1800
Netflix No
Torrenting Officially not supported
Support Email
Logs More than minimal data collection
Price From $3.33/month
Free version or trial Yes, 500 MB/month

Speed and servers: lightning-fast or just bearable?

My speed test has shown TunnelBear has become much faster in 2021.

Here are my results without a VPN from a location in Europe:

TunnelBear speed test - baseline

  • Download: 303 Mbps
  • Upload: 307 Mbps
  • Ping: 2 ms

TunnelBear United Kingdom server speed results

TunnelBear speed test in the UK

  • Download: 171 Mbps (44% drop-off)
  • Upload: 50 Mbps (84% drop-off)
  • Ping: 44 ms

TunnelBear United States speed results

TunnelBear speed test in the USA

  • Download: 166 Mbps (45% drop-off)
  • Upload: 9 Mbps (97% drop-off)
  • Ping: 106 ms

TunnelBear Australia speed results

TunnelBear speed test in Australia

  • Download: 151 Mbps (50% drop-off)
  • Upload: 6 Mbps (98% drop-off)
  • Ping: 475 ms

Despite the atrocious upload, I can say that TunnelBear provides fast download speeds across the globe.

Of course, the company doesn’t state how many of their servers are virtual and how many are actually out there in Australia or another country. Therefore, I’d advise taking these speed test results with a pinch of salt and, most importantly, running your own before buying.

Server list

TunnelBear has 1800+ servers in 34+ countries.

LocationCountries
The AmericasUS, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile
EuropeUK, Germany, Ireland, Spain, France, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Finland
Africa, the Middle East, and IndiaIndia
Asia PacificJapan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand

While the server numbers don’t necessarily correlate with performance, the number of locations certainly does. Compared to the competitors, TunnelBear offers few countries. This means higher latency and potentially slower speeds in areas where the server spread is thin.

TunnelBear Windows app picking server selection

The app lists all of the countries for you to choose from, but there’s also an Auto-connect mode, which selects the fastest server (the default option on the Windows client). Using it is okay if you’re not trying to access content available only in a particular location.

Is TunnelBear safe?

TunnelBear is safe to use as long as you have nothing to hide.

After all, it was the first VPN company to initiate an independent self-audit that’s been done three years in a row now. What’s more, TunnelBear continues running independent audits on their code, servers, website, and apps to make sure there are no vulnerabilities present.

Both premium and free versions have great security and privacy features. While it’s a pity that TunnelBear is no longer an “independent VPN” after cybersecurity giant McAffe purchased it, the good news is that all security and privacy features remain intact.

One that I liked particularly was the Always on option. This is a good idea that all VPNs should think about adding.

Also, you can set this service to load automatically as part of your OS startup. That way, you won’t have to rely on remembering to fire up your VPN client before surfing the web.

On second thought, you would expect a bit more from a paid VPN service.

Encryption and tunneling protocols

TunnelBear uses top-notch AES-256 encryption – the same you will find in banks and the military. This cipher is so strong that it would take billions of years to crack it using brute force.

When it comes to tunneling protocols, it offers:

  • OpenVPN
  • IKEv2
  • Obfuscation (GhostBear)

The first two are an industry-standard both in terms of speed and security. IKEv2 is available on Windows and iOS only, but you cannot switch between the protocols because TunnelBear assigns them automatically.

GhostBear should be used in countries where internet access is restricted to avoid government-induced blocks. Just have in mind that all obfuscation protocols severely impact the connection speed.

Does TunnelBear have a kill switch?

TunnelBear has a kill switch named VigilantBear. It’s effective against leaking sensitive information in case the VPN connection drops.

If that happens, VigilantBear will shut down your internet connection completely. Otherwise, your IP address and location might be exposed, increasing the risk of getting hacked or fined for torrenting.

TunnelBear VPN - VigilantBear kill switch

Unfortunately, it’s not available on iOS devices yet. Users of other platforms can toggle the kill switch on and off from the client’s Security Settings.

I recommend pairing VigilantBear with loading TunnelBear when your device starts. This way, you won’t forget to turn it on before going online.

TunnelBear: are there any DNS or IP leaks?

During the TunnelBear leak test, I found no DNS or WebRTC (IPv6) leaks that could reveal your identity. It means that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has no idea of what sites you visit when the VPN is on.

TunnelBear IP leak test screenshot

TunnelBear DNS leak test results screenshot

I recommend running both IP and DNS leak tests for yourself to make sure your connection is protected. You can easily find different tests by searching for “dns leak test” and “ip leak test.”

Canadian and US jurisdictions raise privacy concerns

Canada is where TunnelBear VPN is based, and that’s not great because this country belongs to the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. What’s more, it is owned by McAfee, which is under US jurisdiction.

Both countries are known for tough anti-piracy laws and make VPN subject to data retention policies.

Besides, TunnelBear no longer owns all its servers. This means that it cannot have 100% control over the user’s data being transferred or even stored.

Also, it logs a bit more than it actually needs to. If a VPN provider has truly zero logs, the government won’t be able to find anything about you.

Does TunnelBear keep logs?

While claiming to operate under a strict no-logs policy, TunnelBear is clearly logging more than the needed minimum.

Some examples of what this VPN collects:

  • Authentication time
  • OS and VPN app version
  • Monthly bandwidth
  • Email and Twitter ID
  • Payment details

Luckily, logs don’t include your IP, DNS queries, or activity.

TunnelBear Privacy Policy quotes screenshot

As per TunnelBear’s logging policy, your personal data will be provided to authorities “in the event TunnelBear is served with a valid subpoena, warrant, or another legal document.”

Secondly, TunnelBear “may send data to third-party service providers” for “understanding website analytics” – which could mean almost anything.

Anonymous purchase

TunnelBear allows anonymous payment with Bitcoin, but it doesn’t fully support anonymous purchasing. That’s because your email address will be your login name, so it cannot be a throwaway account.

In any case, there are still quite a few services that don’t allow anonymous payments with gift cards or cryptocurrencies, so this VPN is doing quite a good job in this department.

Does TunnelBear support my device?

That’s very likely because this service has apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. In addition, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are available. Chrome users can also download TunnelBear Blocker, which attacks ads and tracking.

Unfortunately, there’s no support for a router or any other device, so you won’t be able to make TunnelBear your home VPN, even though it allows five simultaneous connections.

The apps are pretty similar across the platforms, offering an easy-to-use and simple interface. Most buttons and settings have clear descriptions so that even novice computer users would know how to use them.

TunnelBear desktop apps: Windows and macOS

TunnelBear apps for Windows and macOS are pretty similar, save for the Settings. Both offer switching TCP Override, VigilantBear, GhostBear, and managing Trusted Networks. All these can be toggled by pressing the cogwheel on the top left.

The more confusing setting, found General tab, is TCP Override. This option, available on the Mac and Windows apps, forces TunnelBear to only use the TCP protocol instead of UDP, which is slower but more reliable. You should choose it only if you have a good internet connection and if turning the VPN on makes your streams choppy or your download times slow.

Free version users will also be getting notifications about their bandwidth situation, with a friendly reminder to upgrade and roam the internet wilderness, free as a bird or a bear.

TunnelBear Windows client main screen screenshot

Those who want to connect as fast as possible can simply press the On/Off button at the top left and let the VPN select the best location. Instead of Auto-connect, you can also choose one of the 34+ countries by pressing the drop-down menu icon.

GhostBear, which is another name for Stealth VPN, should be used if you’re unable to connect without it. That would mean that your traffic is recognized as coming from a VPN and thus blocked. GhostBear can be invaluable in countries like China, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, where internet access is restricted.

The Trusted Networks tab allows you to add Wi-Fi networks that you see as safe enough to connect to without a VPN. While our advice is to always have your VPN on, there are situations when the extra speed is worth more. In any case, adding your trusted networks means that should they be unavailable, you will be connecting safely with TunnelBear VPN on.

Most importantly, both macOS and Windows apps are as secure as one another. The only key difference is that the macOS version doesn’t have the IKEv2 protocol.

TunnelBear mobile apps: Android and iOS (iPhone & iPad)

Their Android app is as secure as the desktop versions, having the same encryption, protocols, and other features.

TunnelBear for Android menu screenshotTunnelBear for Android Settings

In fact, it even has SplitBear – a split tunneling option that is unavailable on desktop. SplitBear allows you to choose which apps will use a VPN connection. Therefore, you can torrent safely while browsing freely at full speed.

Unfortunately, TunnelBear for iOS is lackluster. The only two things you can do is add Trusted Networks and toggle Bear Sounds. Pathetic.

TunnelBear for iOS server location screenshotTunnelBear for iOS Settings screenshot

Without a kill switch (VigilantBear), your IP address will be exposed in case of a VPN failure, and TunnelBear is prone to that. Also, without a stealth protocol (GhostBear), you most likely won’t be able to browse freely in China and other countries where internet access is restricted.

TunnelBear extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera

TunnelBear offers three browser extensions and ad Blocker, which allegedly stops ads and tracking. However, it’s available on Chrome only and has been updated in 2018. Maybe that’s why it blocked the TunnelBear website for me.

TunnelBear Blocker tool screenshotTunnelBear Chrome extension screenshot

The situation with browser extensions is better. The Firefox and Chrome TunnelBear versions were updated in January 2021. Sadly, the Opera add-on dates back to January 2019.

Learning how to use TunnelBear browser extensions is easy. The main window lets you do five things:

  1. Turn the extension on or off.
  2. Select one of the 34+ countries.
  3. Go to Settings.
  4. Minimize this window even more.
  5. Click or close the ad, which then changes to a world map pointing out your actual location.

When the VPN is on, you will see a bear climb out of the tunnel and a straight line, drawn from your location to your destination. Contrary to real life, as long as you can see a bear, you’re safe.

Unfortunately, there are virtually no settings to tweak or features to turn on save for some keyboard shortcuts. What is more, there’s no Auto option for selecting the fastest server, which might be in another country the next time you need to use a proxy.

But the most concerning thing is the list of dubious permissions that TunnelBear extensions require. Reading and changing all your data on the websites you visit and managing your extensions are only just a few of them.

Pricing: is TunnelBear a good deal?

These are the TunnelBear VPN pricing plans:

  • Free: 500 MB/month
  • 1-month: $9.99/month
  • 1-year: $4.99/month
  • 3-years: $3.33/month
  • Teams: from $5.75/month annually for one person (7-day free trial)

TunnelBear prices and plans screenshot

TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoins. There used to be a PayPal option, and I hope it will return someday, like a Jedi.

One negative touch about the pricing is that TunnelBear doesn’t have a money-back guarantee. However, it’s still possible to get a refund. To do so, contact customer support – they evaluate each case separately and may transfer back the funds.

Nevertheless, you can always try this VPN for free and see if you get what you want. But to be honest, while these prices don’t look high, you can get better VPNs for the same money that unblock Netflix and support P2P.

TunnelBear free VPN

TunnelBear’s free version is available on Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android. It allows 500 MB/month, but you can extend it to 1 GB by tweeting about the VPN on Twitter.

Just like the full version, it offers 34+ countries to connect to. Most importantly, the speeds are similar too, but since streaming and torrenting are unavailable, one would be hard-pressed to maximize this benefit.

Netflix and other streaming services

When it comes to Netflix and streaming, TunnelBear is a bad choice. This VPN doesn’t unblock any libraries, be it the US, the UK, or the Australian. However, if it did, users even from distant locations would probably have enough connection speed to stream smoothly in HD or even 4K. At least that’s what I got from Fast.com tests.

Users of free VPN account probably know that 500 MB per month won’t get them too far if you want to watch Netflix. Unfortunately, the Paid version won’t get you much further either – TunnelBear and Netflix simply don’t get along.

When it comes to other streaming platforms, it would be surprising to see TunnelBear unblock BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or Amazon Prime in the near future.

To sum up, I recommend choosing one of our best-ranked streaming VPNs if you want to watch all your favorite movies and TV shows.

Does it work with Kodi?

TunnelBear is friendly for Kodi. It offers great encryption, protects your IP, and is easy to install and use. The best part is that speeds shouldn’t be of an issue, but you should still test with the free version first.

As for those who want to use Kodi to see what they shouldn’t see, they should consider a VPN in a friendlier jurisdiction than Canada.

Does it work with Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick?

TunnelBear doesn’t have an app for Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, this VPN doesn’t unblock Netflix or other streaming platforms. Therefore, there’s no way that pairing TunnelBear with Amazon Fire Stick would work anytime soon.

Does TunnelBear support torrenting?

No, TunnelBear doesn’t support torrenting, and you shouldn’t use this VPN for P2P. While that doesn’t mean that torrenting won’t work for everyone, don’t expect any help on this matter from the provider – they offer no explanation on their decision.

I suggest you look for a more torrent-friendly VPN instead.

Support: a knowledgebase and email

TunnelBear has no live chat support. Hopefully, this VPN will reconsider and provide their 20+ million users with proper and fast live support.

TunnelBear customer support options screenshot

In the meantime, the Help page on its website gives you three options:

  • Search the help database
  • Browse categories and featured articles
  • Log in and submit a ticket

Responding to your support ticket takes from a few to 24 hours. The TunnelBear support must have gone through some improvements because you can still find older comments with users complaining about slow and useless support.

Should you buy TunnelBear VPN?

No, you shouldn’t buy TunnelBear. It may be good for casual users who don’t like streaming and torrenting, but that’s probably the minority of VPN users. Everyone else can easily find a better option at the same price.

Speed is the biggest virtue of TunnelBear. Even though it doesn’t offer the WireGuard protocol, it still manages to perform even when you’re connecting to a server on the other side of the globe.

The security credentials are great. You get military-grade encryption, modern tunneling protocols, and a kill switch. Besides, the leak protection works just fine. Unfortunately, this VPN logs more than the minimum and operates in a privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction.

Power users will miss customization options, especially for the iOS app and browser extensions, that have virtually none of them.

The free TunnelBear version is among the best but severely limits your bandwidth. And because of that, there’s not much point in using it save for trying the VPN out. After all, this service doesn’t have a money-back guarantee.

Best alternatives to TunnelBear in 2021

Luckily, there are some good alternatives to TunnelBear. Their prices are similar, but the number of features and customer support is on the next level. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • NordVPN. It’s the fastest and the best overall service that allows torrenting and unblocks multiple streaming platforms, Netflix included. Learn more.
  • Surfshark VPN. This provider gives you unlimited simultaneous connections, small prices, and excellent security. It’s also great for P2P and streaming. Learn more.
  • Private VPN. Both cheap and great at the same time, this service has a 7-day free trial. There’s also a Kodi add-on and plenty of streaming options. Learn more.

If, for some reason, neither of these three suits your need, you can always find more great VPNs on our “best of” list.


You may also like to read:
Best VPN for crypto trading
How to pay for a VPN anonymously
Should I leave my VPN on all the time?
Best VPN for Roobet
Best VPN for Colombia


FAQ

Is TunnelBear any good?

TunnelBear can be good if you don’t need streaming and torrenting. However, there’s plenty of more capable VPNs that you can get for a similar price.

Is TunnelBear safe?

TunnelBear is safe to use. It has military-grade encryption, a reliable kill switch, and no IP or DNS leaks.

Does TunnelBear keep logs?

This VPN service logs more than a minimum. What’s more, it’s located in Canada, which is a Five Eyes intelligence alliance member.

Is TunnelBear free version any good?

The free version is a good way to see if you will like the premium option. However, it’s 500 MB/month bandwidth limit means that you won’t be able to do much testing.

Does TunnelBear work in China?

TunnelBear might work in China. It has a stealth protocol named GhostBear that masks your VPN traffic from the ISP and the government. However, I’d recommend choosing something from our top VPNs for China instead.

Good

  • Free version (500 MB/month)
  • Fast
  • Kill switch
  • Genuine and easy-to-use interface
  • Accepts Bitcoin

Bad

  • Founded in Canada (Five Eyes)
  • Only 20+ countries
  • No money-back guarantee
  • No support for gaming consoles, Fire TV Stick, or routers
  • No live chat
  • No support for P2P
  • No Netflix
 7.2 / 10
Total score
$3.33 / month
Minimum Price
10 comments
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  1. Max

    There are a lot of drawbacks for this particular vpn. No Netflix is the biggest for me. If this was an addon then I would consider it. No live chat is also a must.


  2. Erico

    A friend said he was using Tunnelbear so a review was in order. Server locations doesn’t look good because there are only 20 countries and other VPNs have 60-90 countries.


  3. Naylea89

    While Tunnel Bear offers great speed and has no logging policy, the fact that it does not allow torrenting is indeed a pain, which made me switch to ExpressVPN


  4. Olgyz

    I like that thing you have at the top of the page, the 1/9 comparison won. It’s pretty cool to know exactly how good Tunnelbear is against other major VPNs. Would love to be able to click on it and get a list of the actual comparisons made with this VPN. I don’t know if you can do this but it would be great if you could.

    Tunnelbear is a pretty nice VPN. The app is easy to install and I’ve done a speed test and it was nothing to write about. Was expecting more but didn’t get it. There are browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Too bad it’s only for PC and phones. No routers or TV devices.


    1. avatar
      Ethan Payne

      Hi Olgyz, we’re working on the comparison feature and you should be able to click the rating and see the full list of VPN comparisons.

      As for the second part of your comment, the Tunnelbear app is actually our favorite VPN app, design-wise: it’s simple, good-looking, and funny. That alone almost makes it worth the cost. If only all the other TunnelBear features (especially performance and torrenting) were as superb as the application itself…


  5. Pringleslover

    The competitive price is a plus point. I use it on and off, it’s reliable and easy to use. Just the speed is not that great but I don’t mind that as I’m not a regular user.


  6. 38madmen

    Too bad their free version is limited to 500mb per month because it is quite good otherwise. If that limit was somewhere around 2-3GB I would be so happy. I honestly feel their free version is among the top 3 free VPNs.


  7. JamesHall

    As a casual user, the free version of TunnelBear would probably be fine for me. So thanks to your review I plan to give it a try. I like that their interface is easy to use so I won’t have a hard time trying to figure it out. I’m not sure how long the 500mb of data will last but I can always upgrade if I need to.


  8. Anna Jarvis

    Not a fan of this one. The lack of support for consoles really kneecaps what I can do with it, plus it doesn’t cover routers either. That, combined with the fact that it’s out of Canada and has no money-back guarantee really throws up red flags for me, and the free version has no real utility for gaming even on a PC. It’s a pass for me.


  9. Edwardk

    Nice article, TunnelBear really has to upgrade in regard to customer support and network.

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TunnelBear review
TunnelBear
7.2 / 10
Apps available:
windows macos android ios chrome firefox opera
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